The federal government will require federal employees to sign attestation forms declaring that they are vaccinated against COVID-19, officials told the Daily Beast. Knowingly lying on this kind of form is a violation of federal law, which can result in 5 years in prison and a ban on serving in the federal government.
“You have to sign an attestation form, and lying to the federal government, it’s like perjury,” an unnamed White House official told the Daily Beast.
Biden announced on August 3 that federal employee would be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subjected to weekly testing, a mask requirement, and be forbidden from traveling for work.
The government is still determining exactly how the mandate will be rolled out for over 2 million employees across a variety of federal agencies. “There’s millions of employees and it’s been four days,” said the White House official. Other officials said they’re still waiting for an official timeline and process from the White House.
The process envisioned by the White House is similar to how the federal government has long collected information on its employees, where false statements on forms are a violation of federal law that can result in termination of employment.
The report also noted that the White House is still trying to figure out how and whether to mandate vaccines for the military. Active duty service members can’t be required to get a vaccine that hasn’t been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the White House says it’s waiting for a recommendation from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
As of now, 64% of the nearly 1.4 million active duty service members of the military have been fully vaccinated.
The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits is declining at a faster rate in Missouri and 21 other US states that opted out of receiving enhanced federal payments this month, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Under the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law in March, weekly federal pandemic compensation of $300 was added to state unemployment checks, with the benefits slated to expire in September.
Republican-led states recently moved to cut off the expanded unemployment aid, decrying its effect on job creators and alleging that the extra money keeps individuals from seeking millions of open jobs. Most Democratic-led states have embraced the aid, calling it a vital resource for the unemployed as the country continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
GOP Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri said that federal benefits were gladly welcomed during the height of the pandemic, but with much the economy reopening, the continuation in payments “worsened the workforce issues” the state faced.
Amid concerns about a labor shortage, most GOP governors nixed what they saw as overly-generous federal aid.
The number of individuals who received unemployment benefits decline by 13.8% by the week ending June 12, compared to mid-May, in states where governors explicitly said that enhanced benefits would end in June, based on an analysis by Jefferies LLC economists.
This figure compares to a 10% decline in states that are ending benefits in July, and a smaller 5.7% decline in states that intend to keep the benefits until the funding ends in September.
Impacted individuals would lose the $300 federal funding, but will continue to receive state unemployment benefits.
Aneta Markowska, Jefferies’ chief financial economist, told the Journal the result of states opting out of enhanced benefits was beginning to show.
“You’re starting to see a response to these programs ending,” she said, adding that “employers were having to compete with the government handing out money, and that makes it very hard to attract workers.”
However, some economists and a wide swath of Democrats point to issues such as a lack of adequate child care, low hourly wages in some industries, and a continued trepidation over COVID-19 in explaining why many have not rejoined the workforce.
In Missouri, the state’s workforce fared relatively well, with its unemployment rate peaking at 12.5% in April 2020, compared to the 14.8% national unemployment rate that month.
However, despite the less-than-dire outlook that comes from looking at the overall numbers, real people continue to struggle.
The Journal spoke with Davina Roberson, a 45-year-old Fenton, Mo., mother of two boys with special needs who was furloughed from her $26-an-hour position as a corporate travel agent last year.
While she continued to receive critical health benefits through her old employer, she would have to forgo the coverage if she took another role.
Roberson told the Journal that she has now sought help from food pantries and charities for clothing.
“It’s not that I don’t want to go back to work,” Ms. Roberson told the Journal. “But if I took a minimum wage job, I’d be working for health insurance and child care and have nothing left to live on.”
Several leading Democrats are criticizing a White House policy that has disqualified or and sidelined staffers for past marijuana use, as first reported by The Daily Beast on Friday.
Sources told The Daily Beast that dozens of young staffers under were suspended, asked to resign, or told to work remotely after informing the White House that they had smoked marijuana recreationally – a marked reversal from President Joe Biden administration’s stance of allowing recreational cannabis smokers to apply for open roles.
The rebuke from members of the president’s own party represents a major policy rift just days after the successful passage of the Democratic-backed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman of California on Friday shared his displeasure over the policy with The Daily Beast, highlighting that medical cannabis was now the law of the land in most states and Washington DC and expressing that the country had “evolved beyond [former US Attorney General] Jeff Sessions’ reefer madness hysteria.”
“I want to find out how and why this happened, and obviously I’m going to urge them to change course,” he said. “This administration promised a more enlightened approach, but somewhere along the line they reverted to the dogma.”
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, the cochair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, was even sharper in his criticism.
“What’s happening now is a vivid illustration of unrealistic, unfair, and out-of-touch cannabis policies,” he told The Daily Beast. “There is confusion across the country because of out of date laws and the fact that the American public is not waiting for the federal government to get its act together. This is an opportunity for the Biden administration to help end the failed War on Drugs and make a more rational policy for everyone.”
He added: “In the meantime, these young people should not be singled out and discriminated against for something that is legal in much of the country and supported by the vast majority of Americans.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the pushback to the report on Twitter, noting that of the hundreds of staffers hired, just five individuals were no longer serving in the administration.
“The bottom line is this: of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy,” she wrote.
Psaki didn’t specify how many applicants were potentially blocked from actually being hired, but told The Daily Beast that there were other considerations pertaining to individuals affected by the policy.
“In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use,” she said in a statement. “While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated.”
Other members didn’t bite their tongue in responding to the report, including progressive Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California.
“This is an absurd policy that will block law abiding people – particularly people of color – from pursuing careers in public service,” he told The Daily Beast. “It’s all the more unjust that many of these staffers applied for their security clearances with the understanding that past marijuana use would not be held against them.”
While cannabis is legal in Washington DC and 14 states, possession of the drug remains a federal crime, as it is still considered a Schedule I drug, the “most dangerous class” of substances.
Over three dozen lawmakers, led by Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Cori Bush of Missouri, sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Friday asking him to commute the sentences of all remaining federal death row inmates and “recommit to the tradition of due process, mercy, and judicial clemency when it comes to matters related to the criminal legal system.”
The letter included co-signers like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Karen Bass of California, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Jamaal Bowman of New York, where they expressed “grave concerns regarding the death penalty” and criticized the pace of executions under President Donald Trump.
“Night after night in the final days of the Trump administration, the American people bore witness to the cruel and heinous practice of executions,” they wrote. “Americans from all walks of life appealed to the moral conscience of judges and the President to save the lives of those on death row. To no avail.”
Under the Trump administration, there were 13 federal executions. Before federal executions resumed in 2020, the last federal execution was carried out in 2003.
The signatories urged Biden “to take swift, decisive action” in commuting the sentences of death row inmates and accused Trump of enabling “carnage and unrestrained violence that must be rectified immediately.”
“This moment demands a series of meaningful actions to ensure that no President can authorize the killing of Americans through the death penalty,” they wrote.
Biden, who opposes the death penalty, instead favors inmates serving life sentences without the possibility of parole or probation.
When asked about Biden’s commitment to ending the federal death penalty during a Wednesday press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t have updates on any immediate plans of action.
“The President, as you know, has stated his opposition to the death penalty in the past,” she said. “He remains – that remains his view. I don’t have anything more for you in terms of future actions or mechanisms, though.”
In the letter, the signatories remained hopeful that they could partner with Biden in halting future executions.
“We look forward to working with your administration to enact just and restorative policies that will meaningfully transform our criminal legal system for the better,” they wrote. “By exercising your clemency power, you can ensure that there would be no one left on death row to kill.”
They added: “Given the historic nature of your administration, this would be an unprecedented – but necessary – action to reverse systemic injustices and restore America’s moral standing.
Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter, and her husband Jared Kushner, a top aide to the president, have spent about $100,000 on bathroom accommodations for their Secret Service detail after prohibiting the agents from using the bathrooms in their Washington mansion, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Law enforcement officials told The Post that the president’s daughter and son-in-law barred the Secret Service from using their 6.5 bathrooms when they first moved into their home in DC’s wealthy Kalorama neighborhood in 2017. Instead, they offered the agents a porta-potty outside on the sidewalk.
But after multiple neighbors complained about the porta-potty, the agents were forced to relieve themselves at a bathroom in former President Barack Obama’s garage nearby, at the vice president’s compound a mile up Massachusetts avenue, and at businesses in the area.
Finally, in September 2017, the federal government began renting a $3,000-a-month studio apartment across the street from the Trump-Kushner residence for the agents’ bathroom needs. The government has so far spent about $100,000 on rent for the basement apartment and is expected to spend another $44,000 as the apartment has been leased until September 2021.
White House spokesman Judd Deere denied that Trump and Kushner had prohibited their Secret Service detail from using the bathrooms in their house in a statement to The Post.